Street Legal

27 Oct

streetlegal

It’s been a while since I’ve featured Bob Dylan, so from 1978 comes ‘Street Legal’. I bought the vinyl while at university but that’s currently in storage so I’m listening to a CD on Columbia (COL 494788 2) bought for the bargain price of £3 when Northampton’s finest independent music store had its closing down sale.  A label on it tells me that its a Sony Music nice price issue, ‘Remixed and remastered! Restored to Original Packaging!’.  Since I am not (quite) a Dylan obsessive, I’ve no idea whether the hard-core afficionados rate this  remastering in the pantheon of recordings!

This was utterly unlike any other Dylan album I’d heard (Spector-ish backing vocals, big horn section) but I rather liked it because the songs were strong and the production was accessible and radio-friendly. The musicians included a couple of veterans of the previous studio album (‘Desire‘) so, even though I’d come to terms with the idea he might not ever work with The Band again, a bit of continuity was welcome.

There are nine tracks on this album and four of them are, for me at least, Dylan classics :

Classic 1: ‘Changing of the Guards’: The album opens with a big, Big, saxophone riffing at the front of the mix and a lyric that seemed to anticipate change, to herald impatience and to be dissatisfied, I guess that this  seemed to be about Dylan’s need/wish to re-focus after a turbulent time in his personal life. Possibly my favourite track in the whole collection.

Classic 2: ‘Is Your Love in Vain’. This came in for a bit of stick from some of my feminist friends for the lyrics: “Can you cook and sew?/Make flowers grow?/Do you understand my pain?/ Will I be able to count on you/ Or is your love in vain?” Hmm. However it was the first stanza that did it for me (written by a bloke in the middle of a messy divorce and uncertain of himself): “Do your love me, or are you just extending goodwill ?/Do you need me half as bad as you say, or are you just feeling guilt ?/I’ve been burned before and I know the score/So you won’t hear me complain/Will I be able to count on you?/Or is you love in vain ?

Classic 3: ‘Senor (Tales of Yankee Power)’ is the track that best encapsulates the uncertain, ominous,  threatening vibe of the album for me:  ‘Señor, señor, do you know where we’re heading’?/ Lincoln County Road or Armageddon?’. This track seemed to resolve itself in the following album (‘Slow Train Coming’) for which it is a curtain-raiser.

Classic 4: ‘No Time To Think’. I don’t know anyone else who likes this song as much as I do – but the lyrics are among the most Dylanesque of all in that they could have been written by no-one else!

Overall, a collection that is often overlooked but one to which I return regularly. In part that’s because it was in July 1978, that I travelled with a group of friends to Blackbushe Airfield in Hampshire, for the one-day Picnic festival with a bill that included Dylan, Eric Clapton, Graham Parker and Joan Armatrading. And damn good it was too!

Advertisements

One Response to “Street Legal”

  1. esther millson November 28, 2013 at 10:45 pm #

    Wrt Classic 2. And, as a feminist, the first and second parts are wholly coherent, I reckon. I can cook and sew and make flowers grow, but those facets don’t preclude other ones.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: